You might be getting tired by now of me talking about Barth, sorry. I have been having his repeating thought hit me though in regard to Karl Barth and his seeming repudiation by so many so called and self-professing “conservative” theologians (even and mostly the young ones). It really doesn’t make a lot of sense to me; my attraction to Barth notwithstanding. I am not as one-note of a reader/thinker as you probably think that I am. I never would have even been open to Thomas Torrance’s and Karl Barth’s respective theologies if not for my training in Historical Theology. I came to finally appreciate Systematic theology and its importance through Historical Theology; not that I didn’t enjoy Systematic Theology previously, it is just that all I knew of it (before being introduced to Historical Theology) was Charles Ryrie, Millard Erickson, Wayne Grudem, et al. I digress.
This is going to be a streaming post (just so you know). But I simply want to say something, simply. As I have read broadly in historical theology I have come to realize that all that I am reading falls into the category of theologoumena (theological opinions from the theologians). There are some theologians who fit better with what is considered the Tradition of the church, and others who veer. And this is where my confusion about Barth comes in. Each and every theologian I have ever read or been exposed to one way or the other has been a product of their times; they have been conditioned by the intellectual and socio-political categories available to them in their time (the New Testament itself reflects this reality). So how is that just because someone like Karl Barth who happened to be born in Modern times, in Modern Switzerland and Germany, coming to prominence in World Wars I & II, gets marginalized for his theology (by the young conservatives and the old ones too), but other theologians doing the same type of constructive Dogmatic theology as Barth, who were born in medieval and early and post-Reformed times get the stamp of approval? Barth was simply attempting to engage with the Tradition just as much as those accidentally born in other times. What makes one period, or multiple periods of time in history more special, closer to God as it were, than others, in particular Barth’s and the Modern’s time? Has God come close in one age, in two or three periods of history, and abandoned us now?
I am sincerely confused by this double standard! It seems absurd, self-serving, and trendy (to bash theology done in Modern times just because it has been done in Modern times). I am open to learn from all periods of Church History; I am not sure what it is about Barth in particular that people find so different than what other theologians have done. When Barth speaks he doesn’t speak Gospel truth (as he would say too), just as Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Anselm, Vermigli, Calvin, Luther, et al. do not speak Gospel truth.
People who marginalize Barth simply because he only recently died (relatively speaking), and not a long time ago are being facile.